The Most Iconic American Foods That Defined Each Decade
Travel with us and explore some of the most popular American foods and food trends of the past!
1920s: Green Giant
"Ho, ho, ho!" The Jolly Green Giant first appeared in advertising for the Minnesota Valley Canning Company in 1928. He was such a hit, the company was renamed for him! Eating veggies seemed a lot more fun when they came from a package featuring this colorful character. Here are more of the top food mascots of all time.
1920s: Wonder Bread
Wonder Bread grew in popularity in 1925, when it became America's first sliced bread. During World War II, metal was conserved for the war effort and slicing blades weren't available. So the loaf with the red, blue, and yellow balloons on the package again became—briefly—unsliced!
1920s: Gerber Baby Food
When Daniel and Dorothy Gerber began straining solid foods at home to feed their infant daughter Sally in 1927, Gerber Baby Food was born. In 1928, the company sold carrots, peas, prunes, spinach, and beef vegetable soup… and debuted the famous sketch of the Gerber Baby.
1930s: Birdseye Frozen Foods
Clarence Birdseye made frozen foods possible on a commercial scale when he developed a flash-freezing process, ensuring optimum food safety, texture and taste. In 1930, stores began carrying refrigerated cases filled with his frozen vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and oysters. Find out why cooking makes us so nostalgic for the good old days.
1930s: Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
"A meal for 4…in 9 minutes." That slogan appeared on yellow boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner, which first hit supermarkets in 1937. The 19¢ meal proved popular during the economic hardships of the Great Depression. The blue-colored box? It didn't appear until 1954. Check out these recipes for the grown-up versions of your favorite childhood foods.
That intriguing blend of ham and other pork products, SPAM made the scene in 1937. During World War II, over 100 million pounds of the "miracle meat in a can" was shipped overseas to feed allied troops… and plenty of folks enjoyed it on the home front, too.
Love those O's! General Mills introduced Cheerioats, the first ready-to-eat oat cereal, in 1941. In a bright yellow box with a big blue circle, Cheerios also had a mascot: Cheeri O' Leary. The cereal's name was shortened to Cheerios in 1945. Don't miss how 16 more iconic foods got their names.
1940s: Betty Crocker Cake Mixes
A dessert shortcut gained widespread popularity when General Mills offered Betty Crocker cake mixes in 1948. Home cooks who were tired of baking from scratch now had an alternative that still tasted good. In other words, they could have their cake and eat it, too!
1950s: TV Dinners
With I Love Lucy and other hit TV shows, it's no wonder Americans were glued to the tube in the 1950s. Swanson made it easy to stay there when the company debuted TV dinners in 1953. For 98¢, TV watchers could enjoy a main course and several side dishes—all on a disposable, oven-ready tray. Find the best of the '50s and beyond with these retro potluck recipes.
1950s: Diet Soda
By the time the 1950s rolled around, sugary soft drinks had existed for decades. But weight-conscious folks cheered when Diet Rite Cola, the first zero-calorie diet soda offered nationally, appeared in 1958. By the early 1960s, it was the fourth most popular soda in the United States.